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not all is equal. what choice will you make?

This can’t be what charitable tax breaks were meant for

Ethical Oil March 17, 2012

It’s a fact of life that there’s a finite amount of charitable dollars to go around in this country. Canadian families can set aside only so much for donations, and a dollar allocated to the Diabetes Foundation is a dollar that doesn’t go to the Heart and Stroke Foundation or the United Way.  That’s why our government offers us — and the charities — a bit of help, by subsidizing, through tax refunds, donations to registered charities. The subsidy is designed to ensure that Canadians can give more than they otherwise might, while it’s arguably only just that a donor shouldn’t have to rely on after-tax dollars to help the sick and the poor, instead of leaving government to do the job.

But the federal government has the right to at least insist that this is the kind of good and helpful work that’s being done: that’s why it has rules about how much money groups that get those subsidies are allowed to put towards fighting political campaigns. A dollar spent on pamphlets attacking a Premier or Prime Minister, after all, is a dollar that can’t be used to cure diseases or protect endangered species or feed the hungry. A registered charity can spend some of its money on things like protests, but only a very small portion. And it’s not allowed to express political opinions at all. Now, it’s a free country: any group that wants to can go out and raise money and spend all day long hollering about this politician or that industry; it just shouldn’t expect taxpayers to help pay for it with those write-off subsidies.

Unless they’re attacking the oil sands, that is. There are groups in Canada right now who call themselves charities, who collect all the subsidies that registered charities enjoy, and yet do almost nothing but spend all day long hollering attacks against the oil sands. Far from limiting their political protests, their very existence centres around political activism — and political activism of a very particular type: to attack Canadian business and jobs. And the federal government is paying for it. At least it is for now: a few weeks ago, the Canadian Senate launched an inquiry into anti-industry “charities” and how they get their money. It’s about time that someone did.

If it weren’t for the special arrangements that these groups enjoy, you wonder if they’d even be able to survive. Groups like the Dogwood Initiative and Forest Ethics actually work every day to take prosperity away from Canadians, by standing in the way of energy infrastructure projects like the Northern Gateway pipeline. But they probably aren’t terribly worried about what average Canadians think about them deliberately “mobbing the mic” at the public hearings into Gateway (seriously, that’s the name Dogwood gave its campaign to sign up as many of their activists as possible, bogging down the hearings process). Dogwood gets its money from another charity, Tides Canada, which gets a lot of its money from foreign donors. Dogwood’s foreign backers don’t care about Canadian jobs and prosperity. They don’t care if we can afford to build more schools and hospitals.

Forest Ethics is another car on Tides Canada’s taxpayer subsidized train: that’s the group that gets U.S. corporations to boycott Canadian products as a political statement against our oil sands industry — not exactly a charitable project. But Tides gets charitable status to collect foreign money, and then gets tax breaks to give that money to these zealously anti-oil sands groups, who get more tax breaks. They’re moving around huge sums of money used to attack Canada’s energy industry and taxpayers get stuck with a bill for their services. That can’t be be what Ottawa intended when it created special charitable tax exemptions.

Ottawa, in fact, says it wants to strengthen the Canadian economy. It says it wants to expand the oil industry and the federal government has spoken favourably about the scores of jobs and economic spinoffs that the Gateway project will bring. And yet, the Canada Revenue Agency is taking money from working Canadians every day to help pay for foreign-backed activists that attack and sabotage those very projects. The Senate inquiry plans to look into the legitimacy of these very odd and disturbing arrangements. But you don’t need an inquiry to know that there’s something definitely very wrong here.




Comments (9)

  1. So what you’re saying is the Fraser Institute should no longer enjoy charitable status either? Environmental charities aim to preserve the country we call home for future generations, which is worthy of tax exempt status as much as curing cancer or diabetes. If we pollute our country and destroy the ecosystem just to make a quick buck, cancer will be the least of our worries. Don’t you feel it’s valuable to save some oil for your children and grandchildren, to save some pure water and forests and animals for them? Being critical of one’s government and elected leaders is what living in a free and democratic country is all about. Denying tax exempt status to those who oppose the view of the prevailing government and silencing dissent is a step closer to dictatorship. A healthy country has healthy and open debates about what is good for its citizens, rather than top down, autocratic decree.

  2. Of course, Ethical Oil doesn’t need charitable status. It has a big gushing Enbridge pipeline of cash oozing straight from the tar sands. Yawn.

  3. The current estimate is $300 million that Vivian Krauss has been able to spot coming from the US to subvert our energy business, over the last 3 years. If the net effect of a tax break is say a 25% reduction in taxes paid, that means that Canadians paid $75 million in support of anti-energy activity.

  4. “Denying tax exempt status to those who oppose the view of the prevailing government and silencing dissent is a step closer to dictatorship.” This is NOT the issue. The issue is that FOREIGN money is interfering with Canadian Policy. CANADIAN Enviros can and should protest where they see wrong. I firmly believe that there has been a positive effect for all of us by enviro activists hammering away at bad behaviour.

    Foreigners and their Canadian proxies want to treat Canada as everyone’s national park, without regard for our Canadian economic well being. Allowing them to hide behind that agenda by giving tax free status to their donations to Forest Ethics, Suzuki, a bunch of other “back to the caves” enviros – I don’t want to pay for that through my taxes.

  5. The funny thing is that the work of Kathryn and the close network of conservative operatives have done more to raise the profile of this issue and raised more money for these groups than they could muster on their own. Thanks EO.

  6. Little known fact: the economy is founded on “foreign interest”. It’s known by some as EXPORTS, and happens to be the reason that the oil sands are producing bitumen in the first place.

    Every point made in this article highlights the ignorance of the oil-sand argument, and makes me less proud to be a Canadian.

  7. wow who could have imagined those bad canadians and foreigners. and i suppose the oil mega multinationals aren’t trying to influence canada’s energy policies with their billions and please don’t pretend they don’t get tax subsidies. pity the fool

  8. Answer the question that has been directly posed to you and that you have thusfar refused to answer: does Enbridge fund EthicalOil? Simple question, what’s the answer?

    On a related theme, if only Canadians should participate in deciding Canadian energy policy, is it not also logical that only 100-per-cent Canadian corporations be allowed to invest in same? Here’s the deal – you get all Canadian investment in Canadian energy development, and we’ll ensure no “foreign” money comes into Canadian environmental groups. Or does the global economy only work for oil companies, but not for non-profits?

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